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Seller placed own bid on mystery painting

Online autioneer eBay says it has voided the $135,805 sale of a controversial painting after discovering that the seller placed a bid on the item.

Online autioneer eBay said it has voided the $135,805 sale of a painting after discovering that the seller placed a bid on the item.

eBay said the seller placed a bid of $4,500 on his own item, using a different user identity. This practice, known as shill bidding, can artificially drive up the price of an item and is strictly against eBay's posted policies, the company said in a statement.

The piece was put up for sale by a man who identified himself on the online auction service only by the user name "golfpoorly."

The Associated Press identified him as Kenneth Walton, a 32-year-old attorney from Sacramento, Calif. The winning bidder was identified as Robert Keereweer, a software executive from the Netherlands.

eBay said the high bidder has been notified of the seller's rule violation and is released from any further obligation to buy the painting, though the seller and the high bidder may, if they choose, complete the transaction on their own.

The bid in question was well below the final sale price and may not have affected the bidding. However, eBay's policy in these circumstances is to void the sale and suspend the seller.

The orange and green abstract painting, thought to be painted by an artist whose work has sold for millions, was originally offered in April starting at only a quarter and drew a top bid earlier this week of $135,805.

Kevin Pursglove
eBay spokesperson
Discussing eBay's efforts to minimize fraudulent bidding.

The painting has sparked some controversy over the authenticity of the artist.

Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported that experts said the photo displayed on the auction site shows some of the techniques of abstract expressionism used by the late Richard Diebenkorn in 1952. And a blowup of a tear in the painting showed the signature "RD," the way Diebenkorn typically signed his work, according to the report.

Diebenkorn, who died in 1993, was born in Portland, Ore., and spent the later part of his life in California. He switched styles twice but spent the last 25 years of his working life painting mostly lines and geometric forms in the brilliant colors that had become his trademark.

Another eBay bidder said he purchased a painting from Walton back in December for $30,000.

"Unfortunately for me, mine turned out not to be what I thought it was: a painting by the abstract expressionist Clyfford Still," said Kevin Moran. "I don't think that he materially misrepresented the painting, but it was the way he went about it."

Moran said Walton listed the painting on eBay in November as a "great large older abstract expressionist oil" and, like the "Diebenkorn" listing, did not indicate who painted it.

However, in one of the photographs of the painting were the initials C. Still 1955. Moran did some research and found that Still was an American Expressionist Painter who lived 1904 to 1980, and whose paintings can sell for millions of dollars during regular art auctions.

Moran said he monitored the auction and watched as the bidding escalated. "With all the interest surrounding the piece, I began to wonder if the piece might actually be by Clyfford Still."

Moran said he scraped together $20,000 to make a bid, but when the bids shot up to $33,000, he backed off. But, he was able to purchase the painting after the high bidder decided not to buy it.

Now Moran says he is stuck digging himself out of a financial hole. "Sadly, I will be paying off my mistake through May of 2001."